Science and Technology Facilities Council
Now LIVE – The new winter programme of star-gazing and story-telling events at Arbriachan Forest
As the nights start to draw in, Star Stories returns with another captivating programme of family-friendly stargazing and storytelling events on the Dark Sky Discovery site in Abriachan Forest, south of Inverness.
The Star Stories project, part-funded by the STFC’s Spark Award Scheme, is a partnership between astronomer Stephen Mackintosh and Abriachan Forest Trust. The programme, which is now entering its third year, gives people of all ages and backgrounds the chance to learn about astronomy through stargazing and storytelling. Kicking off the observing season on October 5 is a fascinating exploration of Ancient Astronomy in collaboration with the Highland Archaeology Festival.
Project astronomer Stephen Mackintosh said: “We try to link all of our Star Stories events to astronomical events, like meteor showers, eclipses and planetary conjunctions. There’s also a strong emphasis on the broad sweep and cultural ties to the night sky, so we tend to encourage naked eye and binocular observing. This year, to complement the programme’s emphasis on landscape and culture, we’re building a Celtic calendar and sundial at the Abriachan site.”
Suzann Barr, learning co-ordinator at Abriachan Forest Trust, says: “This will be an accessible and practical demonstration of the importance of astronomical events, such as the summer and winter solstices; it will give people a real feel for ancient astronomy – how the planets and stars were tracked by our ancestors, used for time keeping and seasonal activities – but is also excellent gateway into modern astronomical learning too.”
Dan Hillier, Head of Public Engagement, National Laboratories, STFC says: “The Star Stories team is delivering a truly exceptional experience. These events are unique because they have been designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. On site capacity is around 90 people, with events consistently sold out. And people are clearly ‘hooked’; because over 30% of people who have come to an event previously, come back again! There has also been overwhelming feedback from event participants for an on-site video telescope to expand the outreach of the events via live streams, so that people can dial in to the live astronomy sessions, which is really encouraging.
“At STFC,” continues Dan, “we are particularly proud that the funding we have provided is not only buying equipment and props, it’s also supporting transportation costs, to the Abriachan Dark Sky site. What that enables is access to inspirational astronomy-based learning for everyone, even those who do not have access to cars to get to Abriachan.”
Programme dates are published at https://modulouniverse.com/2019/08/19/2019-star-stories-and-urban-astronomy-dates/. To book a spot click on the Eventbrite links. Some of the events may be subject to late change, so people are encouraged to check back and to keep tabs on the Highland Astronomy Facebook page too.
The 2019/2020 Star Stories programme:
5 October at 8pm – Ancient Astronomy. Kicking off the observing season with a night of stargazing, storytelling and ancient astronomy learning (indoor and outdoor). In collaboration with the Highland Archaeology Festival. Astronomy outreach: Stephen Mackintosh. Storytelling: Clelland McCallum
23 November at 7pm – Dark Sky Man. The first ‘Dark of the Moon event’ and another chance to let special guest astronomer and author Dark Sky Man (aka Steve Owens) guide you across the night sky. Guest astronomer Steve Owens. Storytelling: Clelland McCallum.
11 December at 7pm – ‘Astronomy from the Moon: studying the universe from our nearest neighbour’ is a talk delivered by Professor Martin Hendry of Glasgow University, joining us again in the forest classroom. We’ll have a full Moon this evening allowing us to observe with video telescope and binoculars. Guest speaker: Prof. Martin Hendry. Astronomy outreach: Stephen Mackintosh
21 December at 7pm – Winter Solstice Special with guest storyteller and author John Burns. Celebrate the longest night and the slow return of brighter days with a special dark sky Solstice special with our first ever guest storyteller, author John Burns. We’ll also have outdoor stargazing and astronomy guiding (weather permitted) or a solstice inspired astronomy talk. Guest storyteller: John Burns. Astronomy Outreach: Stephen Mackintosh
10 January at 7pm – Eclipse Special. A special night on the astronomy of eclipses with an opportunity to observe a live penumbra eclipse of the Moon via binoculars and video telescope. Astronomy outreach: Stephen Mackintosh. Storytelling: Clelland McCallum
29 February at 7pm – KISS Astrophotography talk with guest Eric Walker from the Highland Astronomical Society. Plus stargazing and astronomy outreach with astronomer Stephen Mackintosh. Guest speaker: Eric Walker. Astronomy outreach: Stephen Mackintosh. Storytelling: Clelland McCallum
21 March at 7pm – Equinox Special with a talk from local photographer Claire Rehr. Plus stargazing and storytelling with Stephen And Clelland. Guest speaker: Claire Rehr. Astronomy outreach: Stephen Mackintosh. Storytelling: Clelland McCallum
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